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Mike Randall: Half a century playing Mark Twain

"It’s crazy — I thought I would do it once"
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Posted at 6:31 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 18:31:10-04

NORTH TONAWANDA, NY (WKBW) — Our very own Mike Randall is marking a half-century as Mark Twain.

Mike has performed more than 2,000 performances of “Mark Twain Live”.

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WKBW's Mike Randall has performed as Mark Twain for 50-years.

Next weekend, he will mark his 50th anniversary performing in his one-man show at the Rivera Theatre in North Tonawanda.

“I must say — I’m delighted to be here tonight, doing the weather for that other guy,” stated Mike Randall from a WKBW weather forecast in late 1990’s.

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Mike Randall doing weather as Mark Twain.

It was classic Mike Randall, 68, delivering his weather forecast fresh off performing his show in Ellicottville.

“I didn't know what else to do,” remarked Randall.

Mike says the person that was supposed to fill in for him called in sick, so his news director insisted he do his weather forecast live from Ellicottville.

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Mike Randall reflects on his performance as Mark Twain.

“Do it as Mark Twain, so then I thought about and I thought well I really don't have a choice — so they sent the live truck down to Ellicottville and I did the weather as Mark Twain,” Randall recalled.

It's a bond that began five decades ago when Mike started performing as Twain at the age of 18 while a student at Rosary Hill College, now known as Daemen University.

“I was a student there and we were trying to raise money so we could get a radio station and I volunteered — ‘oh, I’ll do a Mark Twain show’, but then it dawned on me — I had to learn all this material and put a show together,” Randall noted.

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Mike Randall as Mark Twain.

“People ask me why I wear a white suit, I travel around and I’ve discovered that clothes make the man — naked people have little or no influence on society,” Randall quoting Twain.

Mike says it was Twain's sense of humor that drew him into impersonating him. That's why throughout the decades he never stopped performing, even appearing Off-Broadway in New York City.

“And then realizing there's almost no topic that he didn't have something to say about and in many cases it was hilarious,” said Randall. “It’s crazy — I thought I would do it once and that would be it.”

Mike tells me impersonating famous people started for him at the age of nine.

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Mike Randall at the Riviera Theatre reflects on his work.

“So there I was — nine years old listening to this record — trying to talk like Jimmy Stewart,” remembers Randall.

Mike says when he was in his 20s he had to work hard on make-up to make himself look old.

“I had a rubber neck and I had a rubber nose and these were all modeled. A college friend helped him with make-up,” Randall explained.

He says he even used the same make-up in the Off-Broadway shows but had a tough time removing it all.

“It was painful because in New York City I had to do ten shows the first week I was there. My face was like it had diaper rash,” noted Randall.

And just like Twain, Mike is multi-talented — an actor, humorist, meteorologist, and master storyteller.

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Mark Twain.

Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, once lived in Buffalo for 18-months in a home on Delaware Avenue. But Mike says even after he left, he would often visit.

“And he was giving a speech in Buffalo and he said; ‘I miss seeing many of my old friends. Some have gone to the tomb. Some to the gallows and some to the white house,’” Randall recited.

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library has a special room and collection of Twain's works and when it opened in the 1990s Mike was asked to be the emcee.

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Former home on Delaware where Twain once lived.

“That night I did smoke a cigar and people — ‘cough — cough — cough’ — they couldn't believe they let me smoke a cigar in the library,” recollected Randall.

I asked Mike to share one of his favorite Twain lines.

“Politicians are like diapers — they need to be changed often and for the same reason — probably can't use that one on TV,” Randall laughed.

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Mike Randall as Mark Twain.

Exactly 50-years later — on the same date May 14th, at the same time, 7:30 p.m. Mike will be performing here at the Rivera Theater as Mark Twain once again — but he says it won't stop there.

“I’m going for six though — I’m gonna see after we do this show if I can book it for my 60Th,” chucked Randall.